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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Tutorial: Complex Backgrounds

I've decided to post a weekly tutorial, sharing what I've gleaned from others over the past couple of years. Today I'll talk about creating what I call a 'complex background'--this will give you a quick, easy background, great for ATCs or postcards or even larger art.

Step One: Find and prepare substrate. In this case, I used a discarded Apple Jacks box. I primed it with cheap white house primer, using a little roller. I keep the whole setup in a plastic bag in the studio so that it's ready when I want to use it.

Step Two: Glue down some text. I used pages from an old dictionary that was falling apart. The easiest way I've found to apply this is using an old credit card. I dip the card into my glue (Golden's Soft Gel Gloss), spread it thinly, place the paper down, and run the edge of the card over the top (this squeezes out all the extra glue).

Step Three: Give the whole thing a watery wash of gesso. Using a paper towel or baby wipe, blot the gesso off a little bit in some places.

Step Four: Find a couple of stamps and stamp randomly across the surface. I try to use at least one 'soft-edged' stamp (in this case, the berry stamp) along with stamps that have more angular edges. You''re trying to break up the edges of the text here, so the more random, the better. I like to use Staz-On Ink, as it stamps on anything and doesn't smear.

Step Five: Add some color. Here I chose a light golden yellow. I used a dry brush and sort of flip-flopped it around, trying to cover the white areas, some of the text, and some of the stamping. Blot or rub with a towel if desired.

Step Six: Dry brush again. This time, I used a slightly darker gold color on one side of the brush and white craft paint on the other side. Again, flip-flop the brush (it's actually got a name: scumbling). Feel free to blot with a towel again, if you'd like.

Step Seven: Overstamp with white or cream. In this case, I used a foam stamp, but purposedly did not put paint along the square edges of the stamp so that it had a rougher look..

Step Eight: Dry brush over any harsh edges left from your white stamping. You're done--all you have to decide now is what size to trim it!

I trimmed this cereal box into 24 ATCs that are all prepped and ready to add a central image and/or words. This saves tons of time when you're mass-producing--I did Christmas cards using this approach, and it was quick! The key to saving time is to cut AFTER you're done doing all the gluing, stamping, and painting.


martha said...

NIce! Thanks for the tutorial.

Olivia said...

Wow, I LOVE this, Karen! I wondered so much about how you did your work, which as you know, I really admire. I will use this idea in my art this week. Thank you, O

Paula - Buenos Aires said...

Wooooow! The outcome is so neat! Love to see the transformation step by step. Thanks.

Kate said...


I tried this and its a fun way to work. Thanks for sharing it.


Janet said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. I love your technique and all the ATCs at the end look fantastic. I'm definietly going to try this.

Rosie said...

Thanks for sharing Karen... I love the background you created! I work in much the same way myself!!

Haven't got a tutorial for fabric too, have you? =)

Karoda said...

hi karen, its been awhile since i peeked in here and what a treat, (as always). I just made my first few atc's a few weeks ago...I hope to remember this for next go around.

Kikipotamus said...

Wow, that is really nice of you to share what you know, and to put the time into documenting each step so clearly for others.

Ascender Rises Above said...

and each one unique!

Peggy said...

Thank you so much for this technique. I have done some like this before, but it always helps to see someone else do it a little different.

Peggy said...

Thank you so much for this tutorial.
Have done similar techniques, but always nice to see how someone else does it a little different.

Patti G. said...

This was a great technique and I enjoyed seeing your tutorial! CLEAR and super fun! Wheeeeee!

Jilly said...

HOLY COW!! My new Studio is almost finished and THIS is on my list of things to do ASAP!!

Thank you, Jilly

Margaret said...

Wow Karen! I just found you via a link from Marion at Bockel24 Superb tutorial thank you, will definately be having a go at this one. M

Suze said...

Fantastic tutorial, Great back ground, have done mine just waiting for it to dry, so easy to follow Thank You.

Suze said...

Hi Karen, I have just posted my first attempt at making these wonderful backgrounds on my blog, have stated that the tutorial is on your blog, hope thats OK, Thanks so much for this great tutorial !!!!!

Patti G. said...

I tried your technique out this weekend and posted to my blog with a link to your tutorial! The results are great and thanks again for the inspiration!

Debbie K. said...

Great tutorial, Karen. Thanks so much for posting it!

Rosie said...

Thks so much for sharing this technique with us. It's going to be so useful!

Judi Middleton said...

Hi, Karen~
Just got your link in Trish Bee's ezine. I want to particularly thank you for makin a tutorial that is not a video or U-Tube! So many of us cannot get Hi-Speed Internet, rurally, so we miss out on all the good stuff. I so appreciate each person that does not put everything into video. Thanks for sharing!

Mary R. said...

wow!! I would love to d this one I have that kind of cardboard all the time....thank you so much I just hope mine ,I love this tutorial,,thank you.

Mary Redford

Anonymous said...

Thanks Karen, this is such a wonderful way to do ATCs. Your step by step instructions are easy to follow and very well explained. Now I'm off to go try your technique.
Christal Gill

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